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It is a year of firsts for 19-year-old Ruth. She has just left home, just started university and is just falling in love.
The future hangs before her, glittering and bright. Yet when her new boyfriend Anton begins asking probing questions about her scars, she is hurtled into the past.
Ruth is unable to stop the flood of memories. She recalls her stay in hospital as a ten-year-old, the feelings of abandonment , the borderland she occupied. And for Ruth, some tough questions finally insist on answers.
"Because no one's said. No one's remembered to explain this to me.
Nor why we all got sick.
Nor why a letter came that made Dad mad.
Nor why it has to be me, sitting here... with these burns, while everyone else is running free and happy."
In Third Degree, Tania Roxborogh has written a gripping and poignant novel.
I get a feeling of catharsis from the author when she wrote this book. The last page in the book, the "Author's note", does mention some parallels between Ruth (the character in the book) and herself, the author.
I approached this book with some trepidation, firstly because of the age range the book is aimed at; secondly, I wasn't sure I wanted to read a 'love story' either. I really needn't have worried on either count.
The book is interesting in the way that it is almost two stories in one, jumping back and forth between two writing styles - that of the child in seventies, and that of the young adult some ten years later. The child chapters are numerically indexed, the adult chapters just have titles when they flick you back to the present. As much as I hate to use other people's words, I do find the cliched 'gripping and poignant' to be thoroughly apt for this novel. I felt at times that I was right there with Ruth in the hospital as an observer, and despite having never spent any time in hospital, I can understand my fellow reviewer's comments about reliving bad memories - the narrative is so clear that it would haunt anyone who has spent any time in hospital.
At times I was a little bothered by the author's style of writing, I found it too short, snappy and childish, but on reflection, it is the skill of the author to capture the words of a younger person.
This book gets the big thumbs-up from me.
Ruth is a young woman who has had a pretty eventful life, but not too many people outside the family know about it.
Having spent many unhappy times in hospitals myself, I was more than a little put off by the inclusion of the main characters' memories of her time in a hospital. At times the realism tended to have me reliving my bad memories and wishing they hadn't happened.
Overall, the writing style was clear and easy to follow, but, I felt, a little too bogged down with emotions and memories.
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"Computer games don't affect kids. I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music."
Kristian Wilson, Nintendo, Inc, 1989